“Her pictures seem to somehow be in league with both her audience and her subjects.”
Ingrid Sischy on Annie Leibovitz
Ali and I took a date night to our local public library last week. Since then I have been reading up on Annie Leibovitz. She’s a remarkable photographer; kind of an awkward harbinger using homemade techniques in a world of glamour and high-profile celebrity. I really enjoyed reading about some behind-the-scenes moments as she photographed well-known people naked, exposed, and vulnerable in their own environment or in the isolation of a photo studio.
I was a little bit disappointed to find that the huge table book Annie Leibovitz Photographs 1970-1990 to be almost exactly the same copy and portrait collection as Annie’s most recent book Annie Leibovitz At Work. Surprisingly, though they look starkly different in size and design, these books are nearly identical. It’s like hearing someone tell the exact same stories again, only with slightly updated context. It was nice to see the images huge in the 1970-1990 collection, and the book shows more images in general, but the older book’s format is completely unwieldy. The newer book, At Work, is a lovely size to hold in your hand. It’s a quick read, well-designed and a delight to hold… but the images are tiny and a few that were described in the text did not appear.
Overall, I would definitely recommend taking a couple of hours to read about Annie Leinovitz. It’s fascinating to read about the context from so many now-iconic images, such as the famous photo of John Lennon naked and in the fetal position around Yoko Ono that was taken just hours before he was shot (the cover for the older book). The scandal of Demi Moore appearing naked and pregnant on the cover of a magazine. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a bodybuilder.
As a photographic storyteller, our images will gain layers of meaning and insight as our subjects change, age, and affect the world around them. I’m excited to continue cataloging humanity with personality and wit. You never know when yesterday’s bodybuilder will become an actor and then a governor!